00:00:07 Introduction and Sarah Barnes-Humphrey’s background.
00:02:10 How “Two Babes Talk Supply Chain” started and its transition to “Let’s Talk Supply Chain”.
00:04:05 The creation of the Trade Squad YouTube show.
00:05:02 The decline of independent press and lack of insightful information in the supply chain industry.
00:07:31 The overuse of buzzwords and acronyms in the supply chain industry.
00:09:36 Comparing open-source software communities and supply chain communication, the value of discussing failures.
00:10:57 Navigating information overload and finding trusted sources for supply chain knowledge.
00:14:15 Encouraging supply chain professionals to join the media side and contribute to industry growth.
00:15:18 Growth of thought leadership and the shift in attitude towards sharing opinions and knowledge in the supply chain industry.
00:16:26 Shift in supply chain industry and the need for quality, educated workforce.
00:18:30 Learning from other industries to attract talent and build communities.
00:19:57 Challenges in supply chain industry and mindset shift towards innovation.
00:21:00 Media evolution in supply chain and cross-industry influences.
00:22:01 Lokad TV’s goals and the need for attracting talent.
00:23:18 Breaking the culture of software monoliths in the supply chain industry.
00:24:53 Supply Chain’s vision and bringing fun, creativity, and innovation.
00:26:34 The landscape of supply chain software vendors and the importance of challenging the status quo.
00:27:30 The potential for fun and sexiness in the tech industry.


In an episode of Lokad TV, host Kieran Chandler discusses supply chain industry challenges with Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, presenter of “Let’s Talk Supply Chains” podcast, and Joannes Vermorel, Lokad founder. Topics include attracting young talent, breaking the culture of software monoliths, embracing innovation and creativity, and the need for engaging content. Barnes-Humphrey shares her podcast’s vision to offer opportunities for supply chain professionals and promote collaboration. Vermorel emphasizes Lokad’s commitment to hiring bright individuals and addressing software monolith issues. Both agree on the importance of learning from other industries, such as the tech sector, in terms of conferences, community building, and engaging the next generation.

Extended Summary

In this intercontinental edition of Lokad TV, host Kieran Chandler welcomes Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, presenter of the podcast “Let’s Talk Supply Chains” and one of Canada’s most influential women in supply chain. The discussion focuses on the role of media in the supply chain industry and how collaboration can occur in an industry that lacks glamour.

Sarah shares her background in supply chain, which began with growing up in an entrepreneurial family where her father owned a freight forwarding company near Toronto. With over 20 years of experience in logistics and supply chain, she worked in various roles while earning multiple designations, including Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) and Certified Supply Chain Management Professional (CSCMP).

Sarah’s journey into podcasting started when she was the director of sales and marketing and felt that the existing marketing materials for the supply chain industry were lacking. She began listening to podcasts and decided to start one herself, initially called “Two Babes Talk Supply Chain.” The podcast aimed to attract attention and bring a fresh perspective to the industry’s marketing side.

In November 2017, the doors of her company closed, and Sarah decided to focus on her podcast full-time. She started a “Women in Supply Chain” series in January 2018 but felt the name didn’t resonate as well without her co-host. In a stressful week, she rebranded everything to “Let’s Talk Supply Chain.” Since then, she has been working on expanding the brand through various channels, including a blog series, YouTube, and even developing a technology platform in the supply chain.

Sarah also shares the story behind the “Trade Squad,” which originated from a tweet by a friend who called her a “trade bestie.” This sparked the idea of creating a YouTube show in the style of “The View” meets “SportsCenter” for the supply chain industry. With the help of her husband, they discussed the concept and launched the show, with episode 2 set to air on June 21st.

The conversation shifts to modern media in the world of supply chains. Sarah acknowledges that the industry lacks glamour and could benefit from more engaging content.

The discussion covers the representation of women in the supply chain industry, the decline of independent press, the prevalence of buzzwords and acronyms, and the importance of identifying trusted sources of information.

Vermorel acknowledges the underrepresentation of women in the supply chain sector, and shares that his company, Lokad, has around 40% female employees. He expresses his concern about the decline of independent press in the supply chain field, with dwindling revenue leading to content that is primarily sponsored by companies. He feels that there is a lack of insightful information and in-depth discussions on various approaches in the industry.

Barnes-Humphrey agrees that the industry is plagued by buzzwords and acronyms, which can be overwhelming for newcomers. She created a supply chain dictionary to help simplify the language used in the sector. She emphasizes the importance of changing the mindset and focusing on simplifying the language when communicating with others in the field.

Vermorel compares the supply chain industry with the software community, where he believes there is a higher level of transparency and communication. He observes that software communities engage in intense discussions about failures and drawbacks, while the supply chain industry rarely discusses real problems and failures. He thinks that supply chain professionals should be open to discussing and learning from failures.

The conversation then turns to the challenge of navigating the abundance of information available, often termed as “fake news.” Barnes-Humphrey suggests that individuals should first identify what they want to learn and then seek out trusted sources and influencers. She recommends considering the number of shares, likes, and positive comments to gauge the credibility of the content.

Vermorel agrees that influencers should be evaluated based on their integrity, not just their knowledge. He reflects on the decline of professional press with a business model that prioritized subscription revenue over advertising. He believes that identifying influencers with integrity can help to maintain the credibility and integrity of information in the supply chain industry.]

Joannes Vermorel begins by highlighting the importance of integrity when presenting information in the industry, as it directly affects one’s reputation. He praises Sarah Barnes-Humphrey for being a beacon of integrity in the supply chain sector. Sarah shares her vision for her podcast, aiming to provide opportunities for supply chain professionals interested in the media side of the industry.

As the discussion progresses, the panelists examine the structure of the industry and the growth of thought leadership. Sarah explains that there has been a shift in mindset with people realizing their thoughts and opinions matter, and collaboration is key. The supply chain community is now evolving from siloed and traditional to more collaborative and open.

Joannes Vermorel shares his observations of technological advancements in the industry over the past decade. He notes that there has been a shift from a need for large numbers of employees with limited education to a demand for smart, capable individuals with better education and analytical skills. He believes that supply chain companies must now make themselves attractive and visible to recruit quality professionals.

One strategy for attracting talent is being open and collaborative, as seen in the software industry, where CTOs often write blogs and share information. Joannes cites Zalando, a large fast-fashion e-commerce company, as an example of a firm that has embraced openness, likely driven by their hiring needs. This openness also allows for refining and polishing ideas through public discussions and feedback.

The panelists agree that looking at other industries can provide insights for the supply chain sector, particularly in terms of conferences, community building, and engaging the next generation. Sarah points out that the tech industry, with its fun and collaborative conferences, can offer valuable lessons for the supply chain sector.

The conversation revolved around the need to attract young talent in the supply chain industry, the challenges of software monoliths, and the importance of embracing innovation and creativity. Vermorel mentioned Lokad’s focus on hiring bright individuals and breaking the culture of software monoliths, while Barnes-Humphrey emphasized her vision for the podcast to provide opportunities for supply chain professionals and to foster an open-minded, collaborative environment. They both agreed on the importance of fun and engaging content in the industry.

Full Transcript

Kieran Chandler: Today, we’re going to be talking with Joannes a little bit about the topic of modern media in the world of supply chains. I think, as you mentioned, with the kind of idea of diversity, it’s an industry that very much lacks a bit of glamour and could do with a little bit more of it. What’s your take on these things, Joannes?

Joannes Vermorel: Clearly, on the diversity aspect, there is a dire need that we can agree on. I’ve had meetings with over 20 people with zero women present. It’s a shame, but that’s how it is. It feels very 20th century. At Lokad, we have about 40% women as employees in the company, which is tough to maintain for a tech company, considering that the ratio could drop to 5% like in many others. In terms of media, the key challenge that I see in supply chain is that the independent press has kind of disappeared. The revenues have dwindled, and as a result, you still have bits of professional press, but it’s mostly an endless stream of advertisements. It goes from one article written to sponsor one company to another article sponsoring another company. So, you have professional news that is essentially 50 pages worth of advertising. It’s not that bad; it’s good to know who has a budget to advertise stuff. But when you want more insightful information, it’s lacking. My experience is that with the disappearance of this independent press, we haven’t yet seen the emergence of vibrant online communities where people can discuss more in-depth and transparently about various approaches, while removing the advertising part and challenging the elements being discussed.

Kieran Chandler: We’ve also noticed that the industry has so many buzzwords that Sarah had to create her own supply chain dictionary just to keep up with all of these buzzwords. Do you think there are too many buzzwords in the industry, Sarah?

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: We could probably simplify things a little bit. I think buzzwords are one thing, but acronyms are a completely different issue. Supply chain is flooded with them. When you’re just coming into the industry and we want to encourage the next generation of supply chain professionals, it’s a little overwhelming to have a conversation with somebody and have them throw out all these acronyms. That’s one of the reasons why I put together that dictionary. You just want to be able to easily navigate supply chain. But I think it’s also a mindset shift that we have to focus on the language we’re using when we’re talking to other people in supply chain and make sure that we’re simplifying it and not going back to the traditional way of all acronyms.

Kieran Chandler: You mean that I should stop asking myself whether my WMS is compatible with my TMS practices and whether we are going to be S&OP compliant? I can’t believe it! I know we need those acronyms. So, how can we go towards something with a bit more substance, Joannes? What do you think is the key driver behind that?

Joannes Vermorel: One thing that I see is that I’ve been following different communities, such as software, especially open-source software, and supply chain for a decade. And I believe open-source software is decades ahead in terms of communicating online and transparency.

Kieran Chandler: So Joannes, you were talking earlier about how in the software industry, failures are intensely discussed and there are always negatives to consider when evaluating a solution. But in supply chain, it’s rare to discuss failures or problems. Why do you think that is?

Joannes Vermorel: It’s interesting because failures are intensely discussed in software communities, but in supply chain, it’s still very rare to have people discussing failures or problems. There’s a tendency to describe problems as if everything is going well, when in reality, the problem is much worse. It’s important to have these discussions, even if they are harsh or negative, because it helps us identify the real problems and work towards finding solutions.

Kieran Chandler: You mentioned the word “fake.” There’s so much fake news out there. Sarah, how can we sift through all the information to find what’s good and what’s bad?

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: That’s a great question. With so much information out there, it can be overwhelming to know what to trust. One thing you can do is find the influencers in the space that you’re interested in. Look for people who have knowledge and experience in the topic you want to learn about. It’s also important to drill down and figure out what you want to learn about first, and then look for trusted sources.

Kieran Chandler: Joannes, in other industries, there are many influencers. Do you see that coming through in the supply chain world?

Joannes Vermorel: Yes, gradually. But for me, the most important thing is integrity. The reason why the professional press of old had more integrity is that they had a business model where their clients were companies consuming the journal. The subscription was driving the sales, not advertising. Now, with the rise of the internet, that business model has gone, and the integrity of the press has suffered. But people like Sarah, who have YouTube channels, are putting their names on the table. If they start spreading fake news or not doing the proper investigation work, it’s their reputation that suffers. So, I see a resurgence of integrity with people like Sarah.

Kieran Chandler: Joannes, I was wondering about the people in the industry, like Sarah, who have taken it upon themselves to share knowledge and become a beacon of integrity for others. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Joannes Vermorel: Absolutely. I think the industry is so diverse that no one person can carry all the knowledge. However, people like Sarah have become a spotlight on important topics, shedding light on things that deserve attention. This is gradually emerging, and with the help of Sarah’s podcast, more supply chain professionals are realizing there are opportunities in the industry that haven’t been available before.

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: That’s right. My big vision for “Let’s Talk Supply Chain” is to bring supply chain professionals who want to be involved in the media side, giving them a chance to be part of videos, interviews, or podcasts. I want to help them seize these opportunities and grow the industry.

Kieran Chandler: That sounds fantastic. Now, let’s talk about the structure of the industry. How have you observed the way knowledge is shared and promoted in this field?

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: I think there’s been a big growth in thought leadership, with people taking it upon themselves to share their thoughts and ideas. The older generation may have been more hesitant to promote themselves, but now, people are realizing that their thoughts and opinions matter. Collaboration and engaging with others’ posts are key in creating a sense of community, breaking down the silos and traditional barriers that once existed. It’s really exciting to see.

Kieran Chandler: Joannes, you’ve been in the industry for over a decade. What changes have you seen during that time?

Joannes Vermorel: I’ve seen a series of technology waves, some related to advanced optimization, like what Lokad does, and others like RFID and smart supply chains in general. There’s been a shift from needing many people with moderate education to requiring fewer, but smarter and more capable individuals. Supply chain used to be a game of numbers, but now it’s also about having quality people with better education who can think, analyze, and model.

As you want to attract bright people, you need to make yourself attractive and visible, which requires effort. For example, in the software industry, many CTOs were early adopters of blogs and writing for both internal and external audiences to attract talent. I see this as a way for companies to attract attention and hire the right people for their supply chain operations.

Kieran Chandler: Let’s talk about the openness of certain companies, such as Zalando. What do you think about their approach?

Joannes Vermorel: Zalando is a very large fast fashion e-commerce company based in Berlin. They have been very open for a couple of years now. I believe this was primarily driven by their hiring needs, but I also think your point is correct that having a discussion in the open helps to polish and refine your own ideas. It’s interesting because when you start having this one-sided dialogue of just pushing stuff out there, you occasionally get feedback that’s really valuable. You can learn a lot from those interactions.

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: That’s a very good point about looking at different industries. For example, in supply chain conferences, we’re starting to look at the tech industry and how they’re doing conferences. They’re making it more fun and collaborative. I think we have to look at other industries and how they’re engaging the next generation and building communities to help us put together our own communities and drive change forward.

Kieran Chandler: So, we spoke a bit about this evolution and driving change forward. Can you see any challenges being introduced because of this? What challenges can you see from a media perspective in the next 10 years?

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: I think we’re facing a lot of challenges in the supply chain as a whole because there’s still a significant mindset shift needed from the traditional approach to a more innovative one. I still come across this mindset quite often. I believe the first challenge we need to overcome is changing that mindset, being more open and embracing collaboration. As for media, I think we’re evolving quite well. There are a lot of people doing great things, like Lokad, Supply Chain Now Radio, and FreightWaves. They’re bringing in talent from other industries to move things forward and shake things up. However, it’s a vast topic, and not everyone can cover everything about the supply chain. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes. I hope we can engage more supply chain professionals and bring them into the media side to make things interesting and create great content so that we can all move forward and work together.

Kieran Chandler: You mentioned shaking things up. That was one of the ideas behind Lokad TV when it started. We wanted to challenge the way the industry was doing things. What are your hopes for Lokad TV in the future, Joannes?

Joannes Vermorel: My main hope is to help Lokad attract the right amount of talent. As I mentioned earlier, we’re a relatively fast-growing company. We didn’t raise half a billion like some Californian startups, but we are still growing quickly. We are mostly bootstrapped, which means we need to hire a lot of people. We want to attract bright young people who don’t naturally know what VMI, WMS, and S&OP mean, so that can’t be the entry point into what we’re doing. One of the things I want to achieve is breaking the culture of software in the industry, which will help us attract more talent.

Kieran Chandler: Joannes, could you explain the issues with the idea of a monolithic supply chain system?

Joannes Vermorel: The monolithic approach has been clogging the supply chain for decades. It’s like trying to have one system to rule them all, similar to the Lord of the Rings. We still face companies wanting a single system that will do everything. However, this mindset stifles innovation. If you commit to one monolithic system, there’s no room for experimentation and no leeway for employees to try new things. Without the chance to experiment and possibly fail, there’s no chance of success.

Kieran Chandler: Sarah, do you believe that the industry needs more fun and engaging content?

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: Absolutely. I think the industry needs more fun content. Someone recently mentioned that I bring some fun content, but we still need serious information. My response was that we need a balance of both. I believe we need to inject more fun, creativity, and innovation into the supply chain sector.

Kieran Chandler: As we conclude this interview, what are your big hopes for the future of the supply chain industry? How do you see it evolving over the next few years?

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: My big vision for Let’s Talk Supply Chain is to give opportunities to other supply chain professionals to come into the media side, to bring their innovation, creativity, and have a little more fun. We want to bring some “sexiness” to the industry. I’ve actually heard the words “supply chain” and “sexy” in the same sentence many times in the last couple of months, which is mind-blowing. We need more fun and creativity, and we can only grow if we’re open-minded, listening to each other, and working together to bring our ideas to life. My online platform, Ships, is also part of this vision. I believe it will streamline logistics and foster creativity and innovation in the industry.

Kieran Chandler: So, about the ecosystem and like you said with the big monolith, it’s not about being a monolith really, it’s about having those open APIs so that you can integrate into your system, not having one system to do everything.

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: You don’t need integration if you have one system that does everything. So those APIs, you don’t need them. But being open-minded and open to integration and APIs is important if you have that one system. I completely agree with you, that’s what I was saying.

Kieran Chandler: Don’t worry, I was kidding. But you know, it’s very funny because when you look at the market landscape from the vendor perspective, I’m talking about software vendors, I mean, we still have in supply chain half-a-dozen vendors that are super giant. They are the Oracle, the JDA, the IBM of this world.

Joannes Vermorel: I’m not saying that they are not doing good work. I’m just saying that if you just have the super giants, it does not yield as much innovation as you can observe in other areas, such as for example social networks, where you have a vibrant ecosystem of wannabe giants. They are not just giants yet, but they are growing and healthy, and they challenge the status quo quite a lot. So the giants of today cannot just rest on their laurels and be done with it.

Kieran Chandler: Can there ever be fun and sexiness, as we have in some of the other tech industries?

Joannes Vermorel: I think so. I mean, if you look at the passionate discussions people have about the Linux kernel, programming is not all fun. But programming a kernel of an operating system is very much into the dark art of computer science. And yet, you have people that are really passionate about that and make fun, enjoyable content. Is it sexy? I’m not too sure. Unfortunately, when we go to software committees, they tend to have lots of people with big beards, so I’m not exactly sure that would qualify as sexy, but at least it’s entertaining.

Kieran Chandler: Alright, we’re going to have to wrap it up there. Sarah, thank you very much.

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey: Thank you.

Kieran Chandler: That’s it for this week of Lokad TV. Thanks very much for joining us. We’ll see you again next time. Thanks for watching.